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Karen Karbhari’s Buddy Centre aims to teach life skills to disabled kids in Pune

Karen Karbhari from Pune started a Buddy Centre to empower children with disabilities. She wants to help children with disabilities become independent and self-reliant with the right guidance and training.

When Karen Karbhari's daughter Kaneecka was diagnosed with epilepsy, she did not know how to equip herself or her daughter with the skills to cope. To learn more, she started engaging with parents of children with disabilities. The cause became close to her heart.

Soon, Karen decided to start a Buddy Centre in Pune to empower children with disabilities. Her centre is almost two years old now, and she has reached out to 10 kids regularly. She says she had found her true calling.

Kaneecka was diagnosed with epilepsy the second day she was born. Just like any parent, Karen was worried and confused. Today, her daughter is 17 years old and Karen has realised that a physical disability is merely a perception. With determination and confidence, a disabled child can reach for the stars. She is all smiles when she talks about her students at Buddy Centre. She says she has learned a lot from the kids here, be it Nethan Serrao who has Down syndrome or Lana, who has a developmental delay.

For Kaneecka, going to schools and interacting socially was a difficult task. She has changed at least four schools. I realised that there are very few centres or schools that actually reach out to children with special needs. I want to build self-confidence in my children and also help them improve their social skills. Slowly and gradually, they have to be accepted to mainstream schools.- Karen Karbhari, Founder, Buddy Centre

In due course of time, Karen hopes to sensitize teachers from mainstream schools so that the bridge between teachers and children with disabilities are no more there. Even though the sessions at Buddy Centre are chargeable, Karen ensures that children from financially backward families can avail free sessions at her centre.

More than lack of awareness, many parents are not willing to accept that their child has a disability. Over the years, Karen has been working towards changing this. Last year, she organised a Diwali Mela at her centre where children with disabilities sold products they had made like diyas, handmade soaps and paper products.

"I organised this so that both children and parents know that with right guidance, their child can become independent. We got a good response at the mela and apart from regular sessions at our centre, we also bring kids together for therapies and other fun activities, says Karen.

Melanie Andrade's daughter Lana, who has a developmental delay, has been going to the centre for nearly a year now.

"Earlier, Lana was not socially active and lacked confidence when talking to people", says Melanie. :Outside school, she was an introvert and was hesitant to even make conversations. I came to know about Buddy Centre from a parent and decided to admit her there. It was a great decision because the centre has made a huge impact on her. She is more confident and happy now and does activities on her own".

GET IN TOUCH: If you are interested to know more about the centre, call +91-9823054518.

ALSO READ: GiftAbled, providing sustainable livelihood to disabled people

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